Deep End: Listerine Strips

Photo by Gabby Gagliano

On Feb. 9, I got the most validating, heartwarming Instagram DM that I have ever received. 

@Listerenestrips_, known to friends and family as Avalon (I learn later that she is named after the biblical, paradisiacal island on which King Arthur was said to be buried), reached out to me saying, “omg dude in love with ur jewelry, if you’d like to do a trade for a tattoo sometime lmk.” 

Immediately, and while blushing three different shades of crimson, I look at their flash design posts. As an avid tattoo collector, I feel like an artist’s flash sheets speak to their talent and true style, and individuality is what stands out the most. 

Their style, which is based around single-needle hand-poking, consisted of fastidiously intricate geometric designs, flowers, furniture and these shapeless, faceless creatures that they have adoringly nicknamed “squiggles.” I was in love. 

Four days later, I show up to their studio in downtown New Paltz with a custom necklace and earring set that I’ve never been more proud to have made, and walk into their lair, which is only lit by fairy lights and candles. Then, for some reason, we both feel compelled to spill our guts about all of our deepest, darkest secrets. 

Whilst I was being tattooed, here’s what I learned: they were born in Buffalo, and attended Buffalo State University as a Fine Arts major but took a year off and followed their friend to South America. Of the many provocative, cinematic experiences that they had the pleasure of being present for, they still found time to draw and dig-down deep into their personal style. 

“I draw from life and my experiences,” they said. “I think what inspires me the most is the relationship between the inner mechanisms of my mind and the mechanisms of the world around me. In particular, art and expression across human history; what connects us subliminally and how we interpret/ regurgitate sensory experiences.” 

In learning about their experiences as an artist and a person, it makes sense why their style is so unique; their life sounds like it came straight out of a screenplay. All I can say, because most of it is too obscene for print, is that a taxidermy studio, 8 a.m. runs to a cigar shop and psychedelics were heavily involved. All in the same story, nonetheless. 

Good conversation, good music and quality tattoos is the bare minimum of what can come out of an appointment with Avalon: you never know what could happen. And yes, they tattoo with a headlamp on. They’re just that cool.